Cold, Dark Mines

So here’s some appropriate twenty-first century Labor Day news, from AP’s Dylan Lovan:

Kentucky coal miners bled and died to unionize.

Their workplaces became war zones, and gun battles once punctuated union protests. In past decades, organizers have been beaten, stabbed and shot while seeking better pay and safer conditions deep underground.

But more recently the United Mine Workers in Kentucky have been in retreat, dwindling like the black seams of coal in the Appalachian mountains.

And now the last union mine in Kentucky has been shut down.

“A lot of people right now who don’t know what the (union) stands for is getting good wages and benefits because of the sacrifice that we made,” said Kenny Johnson, a retired union miner who was arrested during the Brookside strike in Harlan County in the 1970s. “Because when we went on those long strikes, it wasn’t because we wanted to be out of work.”

Looks like they’ll mainly be remembered in their songs.

Here’s Florence Reece with “Which Side Are You On?

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.